49ers vs. Jets preview: New York's defense no longer elite

Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The New York Jets and their defense aren't playing up to expectations this year.

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the New York Jets? Mark Gastineau and the New York Sack Exchange? No, I'm thinking more recently, and I'm thinking defense. Defense has been the hallmark of the Jets in the Rex Ryan era. Just how good has the defense been this season? We know the Jets have lost Darrelle Revis for the year with a knee injury and Bart Scott looks like he is finally slowing down, having come up with nothing but air, early and often, against the likes of C.J. Spiller. But what else can we say about them?

One of the weak points for the Jets has been their pass rush. They have failed to get consistent pressure on opposing QBs and have often resorted to blitzing to get pressure. Last year Alex Smith had the third highest pass rating in the NFL against the blitz, trailing only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Smith excels at making quick short throws and I can definitely see one of these quick slants or hitches getting broken for a long one, especially with less men on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage and the 49ers propensity for getting key blocks downfield. The surprise in the pass rush has been Garrett McIntyre, a local fellow, born in South Lake Tahoe who played his college ball at Fresno State. He has two of the teams three sacks, both of them coming against the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the teams few bright spots from that week 2 loss.

Against the run, the Jets have also fallen short of previous efforts. They're ranked 28th in yards allowed against the run, but after only three games, it's a small sample season to write off an entire side of the ball. C.J. Spiller's 169 yards on the ground in week 1 against the Buffalo Bills are also reflected here. As mentioned above, Bart Scott would appear to be in decline. He was responsible for 4 missed tackles in the Bills game alone and the team as a whole missed 19 tackles in the first two games. One standout for their run defense has been second-year DE Muhammad Wilkerson who had nine tackles against the Dolphins last week.

Antonio Cromartie is now the Jets top cornerback, and both he and his head coach think he's got top-level talent. Even assuming he shuts down our number one, Michael Crabtree, the rest of the Jets secondary will have a hard time matching up with the 49ers other receivers. This might be the game where we get to see Alex Smith throw the long ball. If the Jets have to blitz to get pressure, and we get some one-on-one isolation, I'd like to see Alex get Randy Moss a jump ball down the sideline. I think this is what most of us had in mind when we signed Moss and, against the likes of the Jets 3rd and 4th cornerbacks, there is no better time than now.

So, while the Jets have done some good things on defense, two interceptions returned for touchdowns, for example, they really haven't lived up to their own high expectations. They have yet to play an elite offense and have amassed a few alarming numbers. Their three sacks have them tied for 30th and their play on third down has been absolutely atrocious, allowing 56% of third downs to be converted and ranking last in the category. The signs point to them finally levelling off, and now, minus their best defender, is the perfect time for our improving offense to take advantage of them after laying an egg last week.

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